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August 12, 1961

Serious and Fatal Football Injuries Involving the Head and Spinal Cord

Author Affiliations

Ann Arbor, Mich.

From the Section of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Hospital and Medical School and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital (Drs. Schneider and Reifel); and the Department of Physical Education, University of Michigan (Mr. Crisler and Mr. Oosterbaan).

JAMA. 1961;177(6):362-367. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040320006002

All of the 14 fatal injuries to the head and spinal cord in American football players during 1959, and several injuries and deaths during 1960, were studied in search of a common factor. Often the unyielding plastic face guard was found to have been forced upward, throwing the neck into hyperextension. A force applied to the forward projection of the face guard has a greater mechanical advantage than does force applied to the forehead or chin. The posterior rim of the helmet, below the occiput, was thereby driven against the back of the neck and frequently caused severe injury to the cervical vertebrae and spinal cord. This danger can be reduced by certain changes, described by the authors, in helmet construction.